OK y'all...if I worked for the Wall Street Journal, this might be considered a "fluff piece." Or perhaps simply an editorial. Mostly, it's just me rambling about recent observations and the thread I've tied between them...not a doctoral thesis. DISCLAIMER: the world can absolutely be scary, and there are serious things to be afraid of, and danger can be very real -- so my intentions are not to appear to be living in a bubble (although living in a bubble does sound pretty wonderful right now).
A Snapshot of Fear
I'm sitting here watching the 2020/2021 Tokyo Olympics. Gymnastics, to be exact. The hyped-up-and-well-deserved-favorite...the GOAT...Simone Biles has opted out of the Olympics. OPTED OUT OF THE OLYMPICS. Huhhh...whatttt??? Something is wrong.
Also as I'm sitting here, I'm just coming up for air from a Parent Pilgrimage to do whatever-is-needed-in-the-moment and resolving whatever-the-worry-of-the-moment. Much of which involves around my mother's fear of falling, my father's fear of my mother falling, and what happens if she falls (again). Oh gosh...what if Dad is the one who falls? (Then we're really screwed!!) All Things Lead To Or Stem From Falling. In their home, there are no rugs, no bath mats, no problematic thresholds at any door entrance, three different walkers with varying features, grab bars, pull chains, and shower chairs -- and no reason for her to arise from her couch perch, because surely there is someone available to refill her coffee, warm her back pillow, find her a Kleenex, or look up something on Google (like a phone number or something she saw in a newspaper ad).
If you are a caregiver, you are undoubtedly marrying the execution of the endless tasks with the navigation of the emotional dynamics. Sometimes the big things are the easiest...and the small things are the hardest. But is this New World Order also a manifestation of how quickly fear can take over and control everything? Or is it normal life cycle stuff? Or insanity??
What's even more insane and no longer invisible, is the very fine line between fear and faith. Between fear as a motivator, and fear as a debilitator. Kind of like a tightrope...or a balance beam.
Simone Biles Syndrome
Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney was not the originator of Championship Mentality, but he sure does understand it. "Best Is The Standard!" He not only gets it, but successfully taps into it...some people (not me) were born to be champions. They can handle the pressure (or so it seems), they have stood out in the crowd since they were 3 years old, they can push through the pain/injury/Internet trolls/setbacks. They do what it takes to succeed and it appears to come naturally. Deshaun Watson wins the College Football National Championship game in spite of the knee surgeries and the naysayers. Michael Phelps wins a bajillion gold medals at the Olympics in spite of the personal and mental health challenges (and the weed? just sayin'). Tom Brady can take even the mediocre Tampa Bay Bucs to the Super Bowl...and come home with the Lombardi Trophy. Serena Williams...even pregnant Serena Williams...well, she's just Serena Williams.
The Ultimate Diva, Tina Turner, performed a Super Bowl pregame show at 70 years old with a fever of 103 degrees. The show must go on!
What sets these people apart...what is at the core of Championship Mentality? I contend it's NO FEAR.
No fear of failure. (even though it's inevitable along the way)
No fear of what others think. (even though they have to deal with it)
No fear of ridicule. (even though it's part of our culture)
No fear of PAIN. (even though it HURTS!!)
No fear of falling. (even though it happens...a lot)
NO FEAR OF CONSEQUENCES.
So what really happened to Simone Biles?? I suppose we will know soon...(anyone????) Perhaps she made the most courageous choice of all...not being afraid to say "enough."
What Is Fear, Anyway?
If you consider Fear a noun, it's described online as follows:
an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.
If you consider Fear a verb, then it's this:
1. to be afraid of (someone or something) as likely to be dangerous, painful, or threatening.
Dangerous. Painful. Threatening. "Belief that" and "likely to be." Is that a hint our fears may not be rooted in reality? And how do we know if they are real or imagined? Well, when you are the one who's afraid, it's REAL. At least it feels that way.
So what am I actually afraid of? Hmmm...
Running out of time? Money??
Losing my health? Losing my mind??
People not liking/approving of me?
Being alone? Being forgotten??
Missing opportunities? Missing out? (FOMO)
Letting people down? Letting myself down?
Getting old? Getting Covid??
I don't know...sometimes just looking in the mirror these days can be scary!! haha
In his book His Needs, Her Needs, Willard F. Harley, Jr. describes the needs of women and the needs of men being very different. (REALLY???) I am understanding better now how needs can often be attached to (or feed into) fears, as well. For example, the book lists financial security on the list of needs for women, which can absolutely manifest into fear...while sex is high on the list of needs for men, who sometimes behave like they are deathly afraid they are never going to get any sex ever ever again. (that made you laugh, I hope...)
The Good Kind of Fear
If we didn't have fear, we probably wouldn't be around very long. We'd walk out into a busy street, put our hands on hot stoves, dive off cliffs without determining how deep the water is, handle poisonous rattlesnakes. We'd walk boldly down dark alleys and toward people visibly intending to harm us. We might even drink milk past the expiration date!! (gasp!)
Fear can also be very motivating. Why? Because we are naturally hard-wired to move away from uncomfortable things. If our fear is of failure, which feels uncomfortable, we are motivated to try harder. Fear of gaining weight can motivate us to exercise more. OK, well, it's supposed to. ;)
Fear can also be a healthy respect, such as fear of a parent or authority figure, or of God.
The Bad Kind of Fear
I've seen fear paralyze people you would consider smart, logical, and otherwise functioning citizens. A professional colleague wouldn't fly for years after 9/11, a family member wouldn't drive over any bridges (and there are a LOT of them where she lives), a friend's teen won't drive at all (even though she has a license and a new car). My husband freaks when he gets too close to a balcony rail and refuses to look down.
At this point in my life, I think one of my biggest fears is getting stuck. That maybe I've done all the "potential-ing" I'm gonna do...this is it, and I better just make the best of it...it's too late to start over, so just go with whatcha got.
God says something else.
He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion. Philippians 1:6
There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. I John 4:18
God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control. I Timothy 4:7
I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:14
Come boldly to the very throne of God to receive his mercy and find grace to help us in our times of need. Hebrews 4:16
Fear not, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you. Isaiah 41:10
"Do not be afraid" and "fear not" appear more times than any other phrases in the Bible. 365 times, to be exact...not a coincidence nor an accident. Not only do we clearly need daily encouragement, we are also to operate on this planet from a place of love, not fear.
So, Simone...I hope this journey leads you back to love. You've reminded us even Super Humans (even a Super Human with her own emoji) can sometimes just be...Human.
Some Interesting Articles I Found...
3 Ways Women Turn Fear Into Fearless Action
Choose Faith Over Fear
Let Go of Irrational Fears
Fear As Motivator